Blended: Michael

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*Photo submitted by Michael*

What are your parent’s ethnic backgrounds?

My father is 3rd generation Italian-American (his parents: Italian-American + Italian-American from Italian + Italian). My mother is Korean (I do not know her family to any extent).

Did you have any struggles growing up mixed race, such as any internal or external issues?

I’m not sure how to answer this. I don’t think being mixed brought on any real struggles. Perhaps it was a little difficult growing up not feeling like you are apart of an inherit community. I think growing up is already a difficult thing for a young adult— we face huge internal and external issues at every stage of growing up— and I think it may be easy to pass some of these normal struggles off onto being mixed. So I am apprehensive to do so right now.

Do you identify as mixed race or by one race?

I spent most of my very young years with my Korean mother, but I think I was too young for the culture to really take root. I then spent the rest of my life (probably after 1st grade?) with my Italian-American side of the family (my father and his parents). I would say all of my childhood memories are very Italian-American-New Jersey, if you will.

My parents divorced when I was very young, and is the reason for the shift in environment.My Father also re-married to another Korean woman when I was in around 4th grade. She was 1st generation Korean also, so she had a very strong Korean culture in her everyday life. But she did not spend much time with the family. So again I did not have a very close tie to Korean culture.

I think because of my situation and exposure, I never really identified as Korean, or even Asian. I did not have many Asian friends growing up (although my high school maybe had a no more than 5% Asian population…). When someone asks me “what are you?” (as ignorant as it is, that is almost always how it is phrased…) I usually respond with “I’m half Korean half Italian.” I usually feel silly after I respond, almost like specifying “Italian” is obnoxious. I know many people who are half something and half “white”— which to them is easier because of the extensive mix of various Caucasian ethnicities. But my fathers parents are full blown Italian—back as many generations as I know. So I guess I think there is merit in the distinction, but I still feel awkward specifying in public.

Although I have a very high interest in Italian language and culture, it did not start until I was in my early 20’s (I am 29 now.) My father never spoke Italian or even knew the culture, and my grandparents spoke broken English and broken Italian and were born here as well. So I never had the language around me or a real authentic Italian culture around me either.

I cannot explain the connection I felt when I first started exploring all things Italian… but there is something magical about it that one cannot ignore!

Do you feel, or have you felt, like you didn’t belong to either one of your ethnic groups?

For sure. I never felt like I belonged in any Asian group or European group. Any Asian groups I knew were very into their culture— they would freely speak in their Asian language and were very closed to allowing others in (or at least that was how it was perceived by me). My group of friends growing up were always very mixed. For example my high school best friends were African American, Ukrainian, Irish, and American.

I’ve visited Italy twice in my life so far, and I never felt like I was looked at as an insider. Not only was I a tourist, but I always had it in the back of my mind that the locals saw me as an “Asian tourist.” I’ve seen videos of Italian groups rallying together protesting the growing Asian population in Italy. I’ve seen the huge hordes of Asian tourists clogging the streets of Florence, gathering looks of hatred and annoyance. I’ve seen huge racism in my own country towards growing Asian populations and assimilation. I think these experiences together, over the years, always created an insecurity that I will be lumped into these terrible stereotypes just because of the way I look.

Coming to America: Giulia

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Place of Origin: Merate, Italy

When did you move to America?

I came to America on August 5th, 2013. Right after I finished high school.

What’s the one thing you miss the most in Italy?

I miss the way of life and my family. Even though things are changing, in Italy, people still pay attention to having a balanced life. People still cook with good quality food, they walk a lot, they simply enjoy hanging out in a park or on a bench in the main square. The contact with nature in most of the country is still very important. Moreover, my entire family is still there: my mom, dad, sister, niece, brother, everyone! During holidays and festivities is when I miss them the most, but I also miss even just having a good chat with my sister on a regular day.

What were some challenges, if any, that you faced?

My family’s disapproval. I was in the country completely alone and I was lacking of their support.They were not thrilled of the fact that I was going to leave for the U.S. for an entire year, and when I extended for an additional 12 months they were very upset.

What’s the one thing you like the most about America?

I like the intercultural exchange the most. I love that I can meet people from all over the world, get to know their stories and their culture, and, if I’m lucky, a little bit of their language. I think it makes me richer as a person and teaches me on so many different levels. I also like that, at least in my experience, everyone seems approachable. For example, if you are introduced to a person that has quite an important job or is a “big shot,” and you later send them an email, you have pretty good chances that they answer. It does not really work like that in Italy.

What do you dislike the most about America?

I don’t like the falsity with which people tell you, you have all the opportunities in front of you. I have been looking, and it has not been easy, especially for an immigrant, to see all the opportunities they are talking about. The American dream is just a dream, unless you have a couple of degrees, no students loans, and quite some money already. There are opportunities if you are willing to work for free mostly. Sometimes I really understand why people decide to come here illegally or just work under the table. Sometimes it is the only way you can have some of those opportunities.
 
Due to your situation, if you had the choice, would you rather live in America or Italy?
 
I think I will want to live in Italy, and this is why I think I am moving back. I just enjoy the lifestyle better there. Also, for me to get another visa or to start the application for the green card costs just way too much money. I do not have the resources now to stay here.

Blended: Ace

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What are your parent’s ethnic backgrounds?

My dad is Filipino, Italian, and German but was born in America. My mom is from the Philippines.

Did you have any struggles growing up mixed race, such as any internal or external issues?

I feel tied to the Filipino culture but not fully connected to it. I have always wanted to learn the language but because I was born here it was hard for me to have the opportunity to learn it.
Do you identify as mixed race or by one race?

I actually refer to myself as an American. Although I am very proud to be Filipino I feel my roots are very grounded in this country. I speak English, I eat more of the foods from this country, and am more exposed to its culture and history. When it comes to my values I guess I could say I am a little more reserved and find more influence from the Filipino culture and even Italian.

Do you feel like you’re part of one ethnic group more than the other?

I actually find myself more connected to the Italian culture right now, mainly because I am more involved in it. Speaking the language, knowing the culture, and knowing more of its history makes me feel as if it is more a part of me. I think the language is what makes me feel more of a connection to it. When I was younger I really wanted to learn Tagalog, the Filipino language, but unfortunately I was rejected from the language. Not purposely, but because I was born in America and it was easier for my mom to teach me English and apply it.

Italian however, I had a more welcoming introduction and find myself more surrounded by those who are Italian and who speak it. In a sense that gave me a sort of community. I will always consider Filipino as a part of me, and I do have many friends and those who I am close to who are Filipino. But I feel there is a bit of a distance between me and being Filipino.

Do you feel, or have you felt, like you didn’t belong to either one of your ethnic groups?

I feel tied to being Filipino but not connected to it.

 

Blended: Deanna

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What are your parent’s ethnic backgrounds?

My dad is African American and my mom is Ukrainian (Russian).

Did you have any struggles growing up mixed race, such as any internal or external issues?

When I was growing up, especially in middle school, I struggled internally with fitting into a specific group of friends. I was always accepted, but I always felt that I didn’t quite fit in. I probably felt this way because I wasn’t honest with myself at the time about my identity. It wasn’t until later in high school where I felt more comfortable and confident with my background.

Do you identify as mixed race or by one race?

I consider myself mixed in terms of my skin color, but when it comes to my identity, I consider myself Russian.

Do you feel like you’re part of one ethnic group more than the other?

Yes, on my Russian side. I learned to speak the language at a very young age through my mother and grandparents, I continued to learn how to read and write it in college, and I know the history and stuff. But, I don’t really know much about my African American side.

Do you feel, or have you felt, like you didn’t belong to either one of your ethnic groups?

Yes, at times I felt that I can’t identify with either group. For instance, when I go to Brooklyn, specifically Brighton beach where nearly everyone is Russian, they often talk about me and are even rude to me. They make me feel like I don’t belong and in the past I had let that bother me. Now what I do is say something politely back to them in Russian and totally catch them off guard. I have never quite felt like I fit in the African American community completely because I’m always told, to this day, I’m “too white” or that I “talk like a white girl” and I’m still trying to figure out what that means.

Coming to America: Jonssen

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Place of origin: Cebu City, Philippines

When did you move to America and why?

“Around 2003 and 2004, My mom was offered a better job so she moved to in 2000 and my older sister and dad followed. I wanted to be with my family so I moved to America too and then later my three other siblings came. My family wanted a better quality of life. My parents wanted to give us a better chance to succeed because the majority of people in the Philippines live in poverty.”

Was it hard for you to adapt?

“English was the hardest part. I felt very self conscious about my accent, I got teased a lot, and I felt weird about having an accent. I would try using TV lingo — thinking about it now it didn’t make sense in the context I used them in. I would say “radical” a lot and I would always use “totally” randomly. Also, a few culture shocks for me were when I noticed people didn’t take their shoes off in their homes, when kids called their parents by their first name, how disrespectful they were to their elders by talking back and not listening. ”

What do you like most about America?

“The girls are so hot…[Laughs] And the fact that I feel very safe here. I don’t have to worry about anything and It’s also easier for my family to feel at ease that we’re safe. And the opportunities here are great and you have a better chance to succeed.”

What don’t you like about living in America?

“Definitely the rudeness, compared to the Philippines everyone there is so nice considering they don’t have much. Sometimes I feel like people here think they’re better than everyone else.”